February 2015 Month Theme: Workforce Participation

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Our greatest asset is our people …

Workforce participation measures those who are interested in working, but for some reason cannot. The aging of the baby boomers, other responsibilities like caring for children or aging parents, having the right education or training or going back to school to get it, foreign credential recognition, technology, low rates of new job creation, difficulty getting work experience, discrimination, and discouragement… are only some of the factors affecting workforce participation.

Why is it important?

Nova Scotia’s output is based on three critical things:

  1. the total number of people employed in relation to the total working age population
  2. the number of hours employed people are working; and
  3. how productive the people who are working are in each hour they work

Low workforce participation can have serious economic and social consequences. Unless there’s employment, there are no hours worked and we can’t increase our productivity. A shrinking workforce saps Nova Scotia of the people power needed to boost our productivity and take the economy to the next level.

Low involvement in the workforce can also alienate the very youth, immigrant and minority communities we need to keep and attract. What’s more, is that growth in the job market isn’t always enough to bring back the people who have for many reasons been discouraged by their employment opportunities.


What do we know?

  • The labour force participation rate for Nova Scotia (2013) was 63.4%, second lowest in Canada
  • Nearly 290-thousand working age people are not in Nova Scotia’s labour force. They are neither employed nor actively seeking a job.
  • Minority communities account for disproportionate shares of the unemployed or underemployed people in Nova Scotia
    • The employment rate for First Nations people is 53% and for African Nova Scotians 62%, compared with 68% for the total working age population in Nova Scotia (2006 Census)
    • Birth rates in these communities is higher than our general population. They are an under tapped source of young new entrants to the labour force
  • Diversity and inclusiveness are not exclusive to cities, but are more evident when the economy is growing and labour is in higher demand
  • Business and community leaders increasingly recognize that the economic exclusion of minority and disadvantaged groups is a dysfunction that hurts everyone


Where do we go from here?

Nova Scotians in communities, schools and workplaces need to demonstrate that we are an open and welcoming society to newcomers from across Canada and around the world.

By the same measures, we also need to be more inclusive to the needs and aspirations of our own citizens in visible minority communities – Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotians – and people with disabilities. They are key contributors to local economic development, entrepreneurship and workforce renewal and they too need to experience welcoming communities and workplaces.

Opening up our workplaces to greater participation by minority and disadvantaged people, and building job skills and entrepreneurship among these groups, are critical to social and economic progress in Nova Scotia. Reaching them will require active commitments by business and community leaders as well as government.

Goal 7 Labour Force Participation Rate – Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia will have a labour force participation rate at least as high as the Canadian rate, bringing more than 25,000 Nova Scotians into permanent attachment to the labour market. (The Nova Scotia rate is currently 63.4% compared to the Canadian rate of 66.4%).

Goal 8 Employment Rate – First Nations and African Nova Scotians

The employment rate (i.e., percent of the working age population currently employed or “officially unemployed”) for First Nations and African Nova Scotians will be equal to the provincial average. (The rate is currently 62% for African Nova Scotians and 53% for First Nations people, compared to the provincial rate of 68%).

Goal 9 Youth Employment

Nova Scotia’s youth unemployment rate (currently 19.5%) will be at or better than the national rate in that year (currently 14.0%).


Tell us what you think our workforce participation issues are or what your organization is doing to make a difference.

Learn more read about Adapting to a Changing Demographic

Find out what some Nova Scotia organizations are doing to make a difference